Flyleaf Books collaborated on the event Wednesday with the Chapel Hill Speakers Series, a student-run organization, in celebration of University Press week.
Gumbs resonated with me on a personal level in many ways. Her expression created a safe space for everyone in the room because she had the ability to shed light on the beauty of human connection and emphasized the importance of truth.
When Gumbs’s invocation ended with, “Our work here is not done,” the room felt slightly heavier as the weight of her words provoked a resilient silence in the crowd.
“Y’all can take a deep breathe and let it out now, aah. Feel free to make any kind of noises that you want to make,” Gumbs said.
Before Gumbs dove deep into her reading, she dedicated the reading to Cynthia Brown, a former Durham councilwoman who passed away on Nov. 14.
She continued her reading by asking the audience to invite someone into the space who they wanted to dedicate their participation to.
Gumbs then created a truth oracle — an open, vulnerable space for everyone to be open to the truth — for her audience to engage in.
She told everyone to ask a question in their heads that involved truth, pick a number between one and 150, and then, if brave enough, ask it out loud.
“What’s the truth? What’s the truth that could liberate you at this time?” she said. “So let’s all take a moment silently.”
One by one, more people came to raise their hands as the space began to feel a little more familiar for everyone.
The number the audience member chose indicated from which page number Gumbs would read from in “Spill.” She would offer a response to the question based off the reading.
Gumbs kept the truth oracle open for the majority of the event, allowing people to participate in her poetry on an intimate level.
Topics of discussion ranged from the civil rights movement to personal reflection to gender and sexuality.
Gumbs said she didn’t shy away from writing about issues that may be deemed too intimate or controversial.
“This book was part of my daily process,” she said.
“When I was creating ‘Spill,’ I was thinking, ‘How do I want my writing to live in the world?’ I know that everything that saved by life could also be shared with my community.”